Did Mars Landers Destroy Evidence of Life?

May 25, 2009
Mars -- First Color Image, Viking 1

Mars -- First Color Image, Viking 1

Did the Viking and Phoenix landers destroy the evidence of life on Mars?

Viking Lander on Mars

Viking Lander on Mars


Sidebar to History?

May 18, 2009

“The quixotic legal struggle to clear Leonid Khrushchev’s name may seem a minot footnote, a historical irony that pits the heirs of one supreme leader against the power of another. But it represents precisely the kind of self-criticism that Russia has spent the better part of the past decade running away from. This process, which began under Gorbachev and petered out under Yeltsin before being aggressively opposed under Putin, is a precondition for any liberalisation. At its heart, at the core of the much-needed Russian conversation about Russia – Stalin, the meaning of the Gulag, the purges, the centuries-old tension pitting Westerniser against Slavophile — is Nikita Khrushchev. It was Khrushchev who embodied the Soviet dream, the rise of the peasant-worker to the highest echelons of the Soviet superstructure, and, at the same time, it was Khrushchev who gave voice to the contradictions, the inequities and iniquities of the system, who symbolizes the double consciousness of contemporary Russia.”

See The Trial of Leonid K in The National.

Insight Hindsight Foresight

May 18, 2009

The London Times’ Jeremy Clarkson isn’t especially fonda Honda’s new Insight hybrid as you’ll see.

Getting the Lead Out

May 13, 2009

An extraordinarily interesting little study reminds us of unintended consequences. It appears that lead pollution mitigated the effect of carbon dioxide release on global warming, and that by reducing our releases of this toxic metal, we have inadvertently increased the force of anthropogenically-induced climate change:

“Scientists now assume that as a result of the significantly higher levels of lead pollution in the 1970s and 1980s – resulting from the use of leaded petrol and due to lead emissions from power stations – the great majority of all mineral dust particles were contaminated with lead and as a result more heat escaped from the earth than at present. ‘This probably led to global inhibition of rises in temperature to some extent, whereas today almost the full greenhouse effect is kicking in,’ says Curtius.

“But a return to the lead emission levels of the late 20th century is hardly desirable. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause severe damage to health. ‘However, with the benefit of hindsight we can now explain why there has been a trend towards more rapid temperature rises in recent years; it is because mankind has cut back its emissions of lead and sulphates,’ claims Borrmann.”

The Frontier of Biodiversity

May 7, 2009

” . . . the century of discoveries has only just begun – the majority of life forms on Earth is still awaiting scientific recognition.”

Planetary Systems Around White Dwarves

April 20, 2009

Here are two brief articles outlining the basics of a recent study of white dwarf stars in the Milky Way, suggesting a minimum figure of 1% to 3% for the main sequence stars that harbor planetary systems; one from Science Daily, the other from BBC News. The upshot is that “In our galaxy, a very rough estimate would be that there are five million white dwarfs with left-over rocky planetary material.”

Neanderthals & Human Rights

April 13, 2009

Reason’s Ronald Bailey offers an interesting but incomplete analysis of the human rights of hypothetically cloned Neanderthals in Neanderthal Rights.

Food for Thought

April 8, 2009

“If we . . . ask Nature: ‘who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?’ we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest.”

Prince Peter Kropotkin
Vzaimopomoshch (Mutual Aid), 1902

Evil Rampant

April 7, 2009

Viewing the two-minute video of barbarity accompanying this article from the UK newspaper The Guardian will require that you have a very strong stomach.

The “punishment,” which is to say torture, being meted out to this seventeen-year-old girl — “on suspicion of having had an illicit relationship with a married man” and without a trial — is being circulated widely throughout Pakistan as a positive (!) example of Taliban justice. It is, instead, pure and simple evil.

Ice Nine

April 7, 2009


Do you, too, find this reminiscent of ice-nine in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle?